"This is what our parents call a "jukebox" ... And back when people went to arcades to play video games, they also got their information in these magical documents called newspapers!" Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) and Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) spend time together in a scene from director James Pondsolt's take on Tim Tharp's novel THE SPECTACULAR NOWCredit: Wilford Harewood © 2013 A24. All Rights Reserved.


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler, Masam Holden, E. Rodger Hamilton, Dayo Okeniyi and Bob Odenkirk

WRITER(S): Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (screenplay); Tim Tharp (novel on which the film is based)

DIRECTOR(S): James Pondsolt

60 SECOND PLOT SYNOPSIS: Based on the Tim Tharp novel of the same name, The Spectacular Now stars Miles Teller as Sutter Keely, an 18 year-old Georgia high school student who's never too far away from a party or his trusted flask. Living with his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Sutter is recovering from his unexpected breakup with his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) while still dealing with lingering feelings from being estranged from his father (Kyle Chandler) of whom he has a romanticized memory to say the least. His sister Holly (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), however, as moved on with her life and is now happily married.

Anyway, Sutter is determined not to let his breakup get him down, which is why he goes ahead and parties the night away, getting drunk in the process and foolishly driving. That leads to him waking up on the lawn of Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), a fellow senior at his school he's never really noticed. But once he does notice Aimee, Sutter recognizes she has a lot of great qualities that would make her out to be a great girlfriend for someone, just not him – or at least that's what he keeps telling his friend Ricky (Masam Holden). No, Sutter's just "helping her out" as he frequently tells Ricky ... But the longer he helps her out, the more it sure seems he is falling for her as hard as she – a nice, quiet girl with dreams of going to college in Philadelphia where her sister lives – is.

But who is Sutter lying to about his situation when it comes to Aimee? Ricky, Cassidy, Aimee or himself?

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST?: Fans of teenage romantic dramas that treat their characters as young adults and not characters; people who enjoyed the more dramatic moments of 500 Days of Summer; people who enjoy relationship movies that don't force feed you the story

WHO WON'T LIKE THIS FILM?: People who find the story/characters somewhat maligned, those who hate it when a lead character is the last one to figure out the truth of their situation, films where the part of the story can feel disjointed at times due to A/B story concentration, people who aren't certain today's teens are actually this emotionally deep

BOTTOM LINE – IS IT GOOD, GREAT, BAD OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? It's good ... But definitely has moments where you feel like you're watching several different films all co-existing within the same space.

WHAT'S GOOD (OR BAD) ABOUT IT?: Written by the team behind 500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now is a film with characters exhibiting a maturity far beyond their years in some moments and acting exactly their age in others. It's a film that features two talented leads who exhibit strong acting abilities, exhibit a natural chemistry where they are comfortable around each other and despite their individual flaws, you want to root for ...

But, much like a real relationship, there is a lot going on in Now and sometimes, it leaves you with mixed feelings despite feeling that things will work out.

First thing first, Woodley delivers a terrific performance in the film as Aimee, encompassing qualities that would – if any heterosexual man were asked – make her the perfect modern girl next door with whom you'd fall in love. Woodley never lets the character become a caricature or wet blanket. Her performance encompasses a mix of innocence, hopefulness and intelligence, encompassed by very few grown actresses, let alone those her age. It really puts the "spectacular" in Now, which bodes well for her future as a lead actress. 

Teller likewise has a strong showing as Sutter, a guy who's as complex of an 18 year-old as you've seen in a while. Sutter is a young man dealing with a severe case of daddy issues, potential alcoholism, lack of self-motivation yet – all while trying to be a compassionate figure to others and knowing he needs to get his act together. But the character has so many complexities to him that there are moments throughout the film he can be likable and yet a tad annoying at the same time – almost to the point that the self-induced pain Sutter faces can be a little infuriating as an audience member. Yet, sitting through Sutter's journey of self-discovery is a vital part of the Now experience, which really does its best to show teenagers as young adults who have real, deep thoughts, concerns and issues as opposed to the cookie-cutter dramas usually exhibited on screen. Aimee in-not-so-subtle-fashion explains how a girl like her could fall for a guy like him during a dinner table soliloquy, but somehow they inexplicably have a rhythm together that is undeniable even when you fear the worst for their relationship.

More interesting, however, is the manner in which the film's secondary characters are presented as they exhibit an equal level of sensitivity, complexity and concern not typically found in films surrounding high school romances. Brie Larson is NOTHING like a typical popular high school student turned lead character's ex-girlfriend, nor is the guy (Dayo Okeniyi) who now has her affection. Their relationship and their backgrounds (she's white and popular, he's black and class president/a star football player) are never factored into the story; instead, Larson serves simply as a memory of what once was with Okeniyi making Teller's character focus on the "now." Even the adults in the film convey a similar sense of purpose and emotion to them – all of which helps the film's young stars in figuring out the next steps in their lives.   

That is the interesting yet frustrating thing about watching Now: There is a bit of – albeit necessary – delving into all of Sutter's issues sidetracks the film for a bit as it completely changes the tone, focus and momentum of the story just as things get interesting between he and Aimee. Further complicating matters, director James Pondsolt either skips over or abbreviates some moments that are teased as potentially interesting ones so that they feel choppy in favor of others. Then again, when he does allow the camera to just take in the moment, the scene can be very riveting.

The "B" story with Sutter and his dad is long, arduous and ultimately not as intriguing as it could have been due to the lack of a full explanation of his father's problems, but it ends up solidifying the main story well. Likewise, for a character that is so aware of his misgivings, it's frustrating watching it take Sutter so long to put things together. Additionally, Pondsolt gives so much focus to Teller's character that Aimee almost becomes a bit lost in the mix at times, her emotions never being examined unless she's with Sutter, making her an accessory to his story as opposed to two people on a journey. Woodley's performance makes you want to know more about her life, but instead of a full picture, we are simply given snippets. Fortunately, those snippets are great, so any such disappointment in not having more dissipates quickly when they come around.

But once everything comes full circle, the movie does as well, delivering one of the better, more meaningful explorations of adolescence and affairs in the heart in recent memory.



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